Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

A little bit of a SPOILER ALERT is perhaps in order regarding the first two episodes of season three of the Showtime drama hit Homeland, which returns in originals on September 29. It isn’t about the plotline per se. It’s about star Damian Lewis, who won an Emmy in 2012 and is nominated again for his wrenching performance as Brody. It was revealed this afternoon during a TCA Homeland panel that Lewis won’t be seen in the first two episodes of the season, screeners of which were provided for critics. It baffled those in the room, and is probably unprecedented, that an actor who won the Emmy for lead actor in the drama should simply not appear in the first pair of episodes of the subsequent season. Co-showrunner Alex Gansa explained that the Brody disappearance is strictly a function of the story and shouldn’t be interpreted as indicative of the actor’s participation in the show beyond episode two. “It’s about where the story was taking us,” Gansa said. He was then asked by a critic if it would be a betrayal of those involved in the series were those in the room to report that Lewis is a no-show through at least those first two hours of the season. “No,” Gansa replied, “but it would be a betrayal to actually say when he’s back in the show.” Homeland won six Emmys in its first year of awards eligibility last year, including hitting the trifecta of outstanding drama series as well as for its two leads (Lewis and Claire Danes). How does Lewis feel about his early season absence? “Hey, these guys have been trying to kill me since the end of episode one,” he quipped, “when I had a stay of execution.” He said that he wasn’t surprised by the way the season opened for him, finding it to be “completely in line with the idea that you must be ruthless with story and character.”

Speaking of being ruthless with story and character, the producers were asked if viewers might expect any Game Of Thrones-style shocking deaths of major characters in Homeland’s third season. “No comment.” said co-showrunner Howard Gordon teasingly. The reporter persisted: Could there be some death this season? “Sure,” he replied. Stay tuned.